When it comes to endurance cycling, Kirsteen Masson has a unique view—both on and off the bike.
One of Smiddy’s keen Townsville-based riders, Kirsteen took the chance last year to look at a ride from a different perspective, when she signed up to be part of the 2015 New Zealand Smiddy Challenge road crew.
And it was an experience that she will never forget.
“It felt so good to give something back,” Kirsteen said. “ You don’t really understand how much the road crew do as a rider.
“It was great to be on the other side of it and see what they get up to.
“You take it for granted as a rider, because you’re so focused on the ride and what you’re doing.
“But it’s with the great support of the road crew, that you can stay focused.”
Kirsteen, whose husband John competed in the same 2015 event, said she was amazed at how much the road crew do in a single day.
“The road crew works incredibly hard,” she said. “Doing laundry, preparing food—I couldn’t believe one day how much we had to buy at the supermarket!
“Someone joked with me once that the riders are like a plague of locusts when they come in for morning tea. And it’s true! We could be in the middle of nowhere and the most amazing food comes out, and suddenly everyone is swarming around.”
Kirsteen believes that, when it comes to cycling, she’s now had the best of both worlds.
“I felt like I could understand what the riders were going through. I could look at them and know what they were thinking.
“So it was really good to be able to encourage and help them—at the end of the day and during the ride.
“Being part of the road crew was an amazing opportunity. I really feel blessed to be on either side of it.”
As someone who started riding a little later in life, Kirsteen Masson understands how an endurance ride can seem daunting to a newcomer.
Now, eight years on, she’s not only now a committed Smiddy cyclist herself, but is always on the lookout for new recruits in her home city of Townsville.
“I came into cycling late in life,” Kirsteen explains. “I started when I was turning 40.”
“My husband had started riding a few years earlier and he got involved in riding for charity.
“I used to drive out and watch him with the kids. I thought he was mad—then suddenly he decided to buy me a bike!”
After a few years of recreational riding, Kirsteen was convinced to sign up for the 1600 km 2013 Smiddy Challenge from Brisbane to Townsville.
And after some initial trepidation, she’s never looked back.
“I never thought I’d be able to do it (Smiddy Challenge),” she laughed.
“I kept looking at the distances thinking ‘what have I done!’ About 150 km was as far as I’d ever ridden before that.
“But once you’ve done it, it gets easier. You feel more mentally prepared. Once you’ve got that confidence, you know you can do it.”
And it’s that much-needed confidence that Kirsteen tries to instil in other potential Smiddy riders.
“There’s a lot of awareness here in the community in Townsville about the Smiddy ride, so I try to use that,” she said.
“I remind them that I’m just an ordinary person, doing recreational riding. That helps give them the confidence.
Kirsteen is now counting down the days until she takes off on the much-anticipated Adelaide to Uluru ride in June and says she is looking forward to seeing Smiddy friends, as much as doing the ride itself.
“It’ll be an amazing event,” she said. “When you start with Smiddy they say ‘you’re part of the family’ and you don’t believe it at first, but it’s true.
“You always just pick up where you left off with people. I’m really looking forward to catching up with friends and also meeting new people.”
You can follow in Kirsteen's footsteps (or pedal strokes) and help fund cancer research with Smiddy.